Budowsky: SCOTUS must defend democracy from Trump

Budowsky: SCOTUS must defend democracy from Trump
© Greg Nash

Chief Justice John Roberts and the United States Supreme Court are rapidly approaching a rendezvous with destiny that will decide whether the president of the United States is above the law, whether presidential power is virtually unlimited in American government, whether contempt of Congress will be accepted as the law of the land, and whether the greatest attacks against democracy from any president in history will be allowed to stand.

President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHouse gears up for Mueller testimony History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week Court filings show Trump, Cohen contacts amid hush money payments MORE are oblivious to the fact that the third article of impeachment against Richard Nixon, passed by the House Judiciary Committee near the end of the Nixon presidency, titled Contempt of Congress, condemned Nixon for refusing to honor subpoenas issued by Congress.

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Trump and Barr are oblivious to the fact that the first article of impeachment against Nixon passed by the Judiciary Committee in those dark days of American history, titled Obstruction of Justice, condemned Nixon for making false and misleading public statements designed to deceive the nation, and giving false and misleading statements to those investigating the Watergate crimes, including Congress.

Roberts and all justices serving on the Supreme Court will almost certainly be required to rule on matters that lie at the heart of whether a president is above the law, and whether the powers given to the legislative branch under the Constitution can be destroyed by executive fiat.

Roberts, through no fault of his own and no desire on his part, will have to steer the Court consideration of momentous and unprecedented constitutional issues that will make him one of the most historically and legally important and consequential chief justices since the early days of the court under Chief Justice John Marshall.

The Supreme Court will ultimately be forced to decide the constitutional balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government.

The judiciary never relishes the role of deciding between the legislative and executive branches of government, but the aggressive attempts by the president to undermine and destroy the long accepted duties and responsibilities of the legislative branch make this penultimate constitutional clash inevitable.

The president is now attempting to destroy the congressional authority over spending by declaring a bogus national emergency designed to negate and destroy the congressional role of authorizing and appropriating spending.

Trump is attempting to overtly obstruct and destroy the congressional roles of oversight of executive branch activities, investigating credible allegations of wrongdoing by executive branch officers, and conducting hearings designed to determine what future legislation should be considered and whether formal impeachment proceedings should be initiated.

Barr has not only shattered the traditional role of the attorney general to ensure that laws are impartially and faithfully executed. He has made a number of statements before congressional committees about the work of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE that were transparently false and deceptive, and has acted more like a political operative for a candidate running for reelection rather than a neutral enforcer of law.

Mueller should have a full opportunity to speak clearly and forcefully to Congress, in what could be the defining moment in the Russia scandal that will have profound influence on what actions the House will or will not consider about impeachment.

It would be pure obstruction of justice for the president to claim executive privilege for the entire Mueller report, refuse to honor all subpoenas from Congress and to repeatedly try to prevent critical witnesses from offering testimony to Congress.

Roberts and the full Supreme Court are nothing less than the decisive check and balance against abuses of executive power that are unprecedented in the history of the republic.

Nothing would be worse for the court, for justice and for democracy in America than for the Republican appointed justices on the court to uphold these abuses of a Republican president by party-line votes of 5-4. 

The Supreme Court must defend democracy from abuses of power and attacks from any source, including and especially a president.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.